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Transgender, Non-Binary and Gender Expansive Characters

The books listed offer a way to affirm, learn, and start important conversations about celebrating individuality. 

Picture Books and Board Books

Cover of Born Ready: The True Story
Jodie
Patterson
Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
2021

Five-year-old Penelope loves skateboarding, ninjas, and learning about math and science at school, but he hates that other people see him as a girl. When Penelope’s mother notices that something is wrong, he tells her that he is really a boy, and she helps him make sure that everyone else understands that too. But one thing he doesn’t want to change is his name– he is a boy named Penelope! Based on the true story of author Jodie Patterson’s transgender son, Born Ready tells a powerful and uplifting story about having the courage to be who you truly are. Grades Pre-K-4

Cover of Sam is My Sister
Ashley
Rhodes-Courter
MacKenzie Haley
2021

Siblings Evan, Sam, and Finn love nothing more than playing and exploring together, but when Sam starts wanting to check out princess books from the library, wear dresses, and have long hair, Evan and Finn aren’t sure how to feel. But with love and support from their parents and one another, Evan, Sam, and Finn come to understand that Sam is still the same person, and the three siblings can still play together like they did before. Sam is My Sister is a great choice for helping children understand and support their transitioning sibling. 
Grades K-3

Cover of What are Your Words?: A Bo
Katherine
Locke
Anne Passchier
2021

What are Your Words? introduces children to the concept of pronouns through a gentle story about a child named Ari, their Uncle Lior, and all of their friends and neighbors enjoying a neighborhood party. Ari, whose pronouns change day-to-day, is having trouble deciding what words to use today, but with time, patience, and some help from their Uncle Lior, they just might figure it out. Grades K-3

Cover of Neither
Airlie
Anderson
2018

Because Neither is unlike both the rabbits and birds of the Land of This and That, they set out to find a new place where all kinds of creatures are welcome. Grades Pre-K

Cover of Morris Micklewhite and the
Christine
Baldacchino
Isabelle Malenfant
2014

A young boy faces adversity from classmates when he wears an orange dress at school. Grades Pre-K-1

Cover of  Not Every Princess
Jeffrey Bone and
Lisa Bone
Valeria Docampo
2014

After listing activities that are stereotypically, but not always, attributed to princesses, fairies, pirates, superheroes, and more, this picture book encourages the reader to imagine what one could be, despite others' expectations. Includes a note to parents. Grades Pre-K-3

Cover of The Drum Dream Girl: How O
Margarita
Engle
Rafael López
2015

This picture book follows a young Cuban girl in the 1930s as she strives to become a drummer, despite being continually reminded that only boys play the drums, and that there's never been a female drummer in Cuba. Includes a note about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who inspired the story, and Anacaona, the all-girl dance band she formed with her sisters. Grades 1-5

Cover of Red: A Crayon's Story
Michael
Hall
2015

Red's factory-applied label clearly says that he is red, but despite the best efforts of his teacher, fellow crayons and art supplies, and family members, he cannot seem to do anything right until a new friend offers a fresh perspective. Grades Pre-K – 1

Cover of I am Jazz
Jessica Herthel and
Jazz Jennings
Shelagh McNicholas
2014

This book presents the story of a transgender child who traces her early awareness that she is a girl in spite of male anatomy and the acceptance she finds through a wise doctor who explains her natural transgender status. Grades K - 5

Cover of Jacob’s New Dress
Sarah Hoffman and
Ian Hoffman
Chris Case
2014

Jacob, who likes to wear dresses at home, convinces his parents to let him wear a dress to school too. Grades Pre-K-2

Cover of When Aidan Became a Brothe
Kyle
Lukoff
Kaylani Juanita
2019

Aidan, a transgender boy, experiences complicated emotions as he and his parents prepare for the arrival of a new baby. Grades Pre-K-2

Cover of My Rainbow
DeShanna Neal
Trinity Neal
Art Twink
2020

A dedicated mom puts love into action as she creates the perfect rainbow-colored wig for her transgender daughter, based on the real-life experience of mother-daughter advocate duo Trinity and DeShanna Neal.

Cover of Sparkle Boy
Lesléa
Newman
Maria Mola
2017

Three-year-old Casey wants what his older sister, Jessie, has--a shimmery skirt, glittery painted nails, and a sparkly bracelet--but Jessie does not approve. After two boys tease Casey about his appearance, Jessie evolves to a place of acceptance and celebration of her gender creative younger brother. Grades Pre-K-2

Cover of It’s Okay to Be Differen
Todd
Parr
2001

Illustrations and brief text describe all kinds of differences that are "okay," such as "It's Okay to be a different color," "It's Okay to need some help," "It's Okay to be adopted," and "It's Okay to have a Different nose." Grades Pre-K-1

Cover of This Day in June
Gayle E.
Pitman
Kristyna Litten
2014

A picture book illustrating a Pride parade. The endmatter serves as a primer on LGBT history and culture and explains the references made in the story. Grades Pre-K-3

Cover of The Boy & the Bindi
Vivek Shraya
Shraya
Rajni Perera
2016

 A young boy becomes fascinated with his mother's bindi, the red dot commonly worn by South Asian women to indicate the point at which creation begins, and wishes to have one of his own.  His mother agrees to it, and teaches him about its cultural significance, allowing the boy to discover the magic of the bindi, which in turn gives him permission to be more fully himself. Grades Pre-K - 2

Cover of Jack, Not Jackie
Erica
Silverman
Holly Hatam
2018

Susan loves her baby sister, Jackie, but as Jackie grows older and behaves more and more like a boy Susan must adjust to having a brother, Jack, instead.Grades K-3

Cover of  Clive and His Babies
Jessica
Spanyol
2016

Meet Clive -- and his imagination! Clive loves his dolls. He enjoys playing with them, and sharing them with his friends. A gentle, affectionate book, celebrating diversity and challenging gender stereotypes. Grades Pre-K

Cover of Rosa Loves Cars
Jessica
Spanyol
2017

Join Rosa and her friends as they play with their toy trucks and cars. Grades Pre-K

Cover of It Feels Good to Be Yourse
Theresa
Thorn
Noah Grigni
2019

This sweet, straightforward exploration of gender identity will give children a fuller understanding of themselves and others. With child-friendly language and vibrant art, It Feels Good to Be Yourself provides young readers and parents alike with the vocabulary to discuss this important topic with sensitivity. Grades Pre-K –3

Cover of Julián at the Wedding
Jessica
Love
2020

Julián and his friend Marisol are in a wedding– or, as Julián puts it, “a party for love”! When they sneak away from the wedding to play and end up in an unexpected situation, they are reminded why it is so good to have friends. Sparse text gives Jessica Love’s stunning ink and watercolor illustrations room to shine in this vibrant follow-up to 2018’s Julián is a Mermaid. Pre-K-3

Cover of My Maddy
Gayle E.
Pitman
Violet Tobacco
2020

In this sweet and simple story, a child reflects on things that are not quite one thing or the other, but somewhere in between, like sporks, the color hazel, spring and fall– and their Maddy, who is not a girl or a boy, but is a very loving parent. Includes an author’s note with information about transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive identities, as well as ways to support a child with a transgender parent. K-3

Cover of From the Stars in the Sky
Kai Cheng
Thom
Wai-Yant Li and Kai Yun Ching
2017

A magical gender variant child brings transformation and change to the world around them thanks to their mother's enduring love. Grades Pre-K-3
 

Upper Elementary and Middle School

Cover of Zenobia July
Lisa
Bunker
2019

Zenobia July, an excellent coder and hacker, investigates a mystery while wrestling with the challenges of a new school, a new family, and presenting her true gender for the first time. Grades 5-9

Cover of  The Pants Project
Cat
Clarke
2017

Eleven-year-old Liv fights to change the middle school dress code requiring girls to wear a skirt and, along the way, finds the courage to tell his moms he is meant to be a boy. Grades 3-6

Cover of Lily and Dunkin
Donna
Gephart
2016

Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you're in the eighth-grade. Norbert Dorfman, nicknamed Dunkin Dorfman, is bipolar and has just moved from the New Jersey town he's called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse. One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change.

Alex
Gino
2015

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl. When her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all. Grades 4 & up

Cover of Rick
Alex
Gino
2020

Eleven-year-old Rick Ramsey has generally gone along with everybody, just not making waves, even though he is increasingly uncomfortable with his father's jokes about girls, and his best friend's explicit talk about sex; but now in middle school he discovers the Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities can express themselves--and maybe among them he can find new friends and discover his own identity, which may just be to opt out of sex altogether.

Cover of The Gender Wheel
Maya
Gonzales
2017

The book offers a body-positive, queer-centric framework to expand the way we think and talk about gender. Grades 2–5

Cover of Roller Girl
Victoria
Jamieson
2015

For most of her twelve years, Astrid has done everything with her best friend Nicole. But after Astrid falls in love with roller derby and signs up for derby camp, Nicole decides to go to dance camp instead. And so begins the most difficult summer of Astrid's life as she struggles to keep up with the older girls at camp, hang on to the friend she feels slipping away, and cautiously embark on a new friendship. As the end of summer nears and her first roller derby bout (and junior high!) draws closer, Astrid realizes that maybe she is strong enough to handle the bout, a lost friendship, and middle school... in short, strong enough to be a roller girl. Grades 4-7

Cover of Ciel
Sophie
Labelle
Second Story Press
2020

Ciel, a gender non-conforming transgender kid with a popular YouTube channel, navigates high school, friendship and a long-distance relationship. Grades 4-8

Cover of Not Your Sidekick
C.B.
Lee
2016

Welcome to Andover, where superpowers are common-but not for Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers when an internship for Andover's resident super villain allows her to work alongside her longtime crush Abby and helps her unravel a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether. Grades 5-8

Cover of Gracefully Grayson
Ami
Polonsky
2014

Grayson Sender has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: "he" is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender's body. The weight of this secret is crushing, but sharing it would mean facing ridicule, scorn, rejection, or worse. Despite the risks, Grayson's true self itches to break free. Will new strength from an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher's wisdom be enough to help Grayson step into the spotlight she was born to inhabit? Grades 5-7

Cover of Riding Freedom
Pam Muñoz
Ryan
Brian Selznick
1998

A fictionalized account of Charley (Charlotte) Parkhurst who ran away from an orphanage, posed as a boy, moved to California, and fooled everyone by her appearance. Grades 4–6

Cover of The Moon Within
Aida
Salazar
Joe Cepeda
2019

Eleven-year-old (nearly twelve) Celi Rivera, who is a mix of Black-Puerto Rican-Mexican Indian is uncomfortable about her approaching period, and the changes that are happening to her body; she is horrified that her mother wants to hold a traditional public moon ceremony to celebrate the occasion--until she finds out that her best friend Magda is contemplating an even more profound change of life. Grades 4-7

Cover of Snapdragon
Kat Leyh
2020

There’s a witch in Snap’s town! At least, that’s what Snap thinks until she ventures onto the witch’s property to look for her lost dog, and finds out that the “witch” is actually just a strange old woman named Jacks who rescues injured animals and reassembles the skeletons of roadkill to sell on the internet. As the two work together, Snap gets to know Jacks, and also learns more about herself, her friend Lulu, and her family’s history, and that maybe her town does have a witch, after all. Grades 4-8

Warning to readers: this book contains some depictions of bullying and deadnaming (using a transgender person’s old name, usually purposefully to hurt or invalidate them) and may be triggering or upsetting for some readers.
Cover of Obie is Man Enough
Schulyer
Bailar
2021

Written by transgender swimmer and activist Schuyler Bailar, Obie is Man Enough tells the story of seventh-grader, competitive swimmer, and transgender boy Obie Chang. Despite his supportive family and teachers, getting kicked off of his swim team by a transphobic coach and losing one of his closest childhood friends make the beginning of Obie’s transition rocky to say the least. Soon, however, Obie finds a new swim team and new friends who love him for who he is, and might even have his first crush! Most important of all, he begins to understand his place in the world and love himself for who he is. Grades 5-8

Warning to readers: Obie is Man Enough contains depictions of transphobic bullying, including physical violence and the use of slurs and may be triggering or upsetting for some readers.
 
Cover of Too Bright to See
Kyle
Lukoff
2021

The summer before middle school, Moira, Bug’s best friend, wants to spend all her time preparing for the new school year by learning how to put on makeup and planning the perfect outfits. But Bug has different priorities– namely, a ghost that is desperately trying to communicate something to Bug. As Bug figures out what the ghost has to say, a different truth comes to light as well– a truth about Bug’s own identity. Grades 4-7

Cover of This Is Our Rainbow: 16 St
Katherine Locke and Nicole
Melleby (editors)
2021

The first LGBTQA+ anthology for middle-graders featuring stories for every letter of the acronym, including realistic, fantasy, and sci-fi stories by well-loved authors.